The Tribune - Spectrum

, February 3, 2002

The year of blockbusters and potboilers
M.L. Dhawan

Rekha in Umrao Jaan
Rekha in Umrao Jaan

IN Yash Chopra’s Silsila, Amitabh Bachchan gives up Rekha for Jaya Bhaduri, who is the prospective mother of the child of his dead brother Shashi Kapoor. Rekha marries Sanjeev Kumar. While the lovers meet and even elope, their spouses suffer in silence. In a touching scene of confrontation between wife Jaya and beloved Rekha, Jaya wins the battle between the rights of a woman as a wife and the claims of a woman as a beloved. In the end, the sanctity of marriage triumphs. Sanjeev Kumar as the cuckolded husband impresses’s.

In Jabbar Patel’s Subah, Sulbha (Smita Patil) feels upset when her husband (Girish Karnard) covers a rape committed by his client, and decides to take charge of a mahila ashram. There she has to contend with corruption, exploitation and victimisation of the women in her care. Sulbha resigns when the governor of the ashram makes her life difficult. Back at home, she is shocked to see her husband involved with his mistress. The audience finds a structural similarity between Sulbha’s own predicament and the abandoned women in the ashram.In the end, we see Sulbha on a train, heading for an unknown destination, her hair fluttering in the air, a smile playing on her lips, magic in her demeanour and drama in her eyes.


Muzaffar Ali’s Umrao Jaanis an opulent drama of a legendary 19th century courtesan from Lucknow. Abducted as a child and sold in Lucknow, Umrao Jaan (Rekha) grows up into a fine danseuse, poetess and singer who wows Lucknow’s elite. In quest of happiness, Umrao flits from one relationship to another involving Faroque Shaikh, Naseeruddin Shah and Raj Babbar, but happiness always eludes her. Rekha as a tawaif, captures every nuance of a courtesan’s life with her chiselled expressions, mysterious smile the subtle addaas. The sexuality in her movements mesmerises the audience as she dances to the rhythm of Dil cheez kaya hai, In aankhon ke masti ke and Just joo jis ki thi us ko to na paya hum ney. The sorrow of being disowned by her family is reflected in the heart-breaking Yeh kaya jagha hai dosto yeh kaun sa dayar hai. Asha-Khayyam-Shahryar numbers lent grandeur to the film.

— Gulzar’s Angoor is a fabulous adaption of William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Varma play two pairs of twins who get into trouble with each other and with everyone else, with hilarious consequences. Sanjeev Kumar invests much of his histrionics and creativity to his comic performance.

— Looking gawky but aggressive Sanjay’s Dutt starts his cinematic odyssey with Rocky made by his father Sunil Dutt. In this film, Tina Munim plays Sanjay’s sweetheart. Sanjay’s dance competition with Shakti Kapoor accompanied by Aa dekhen zara.. is the highlight of the film. Reena Roy as a large-hearted tawaif leaves a lasting impression, singing Pyar mein mohabat mein dil jo toot jate hain/Log aisi haalat mein mere paas aate hain/Mere paas aate hain/Mere dil pe chot lagey to main kahan jaaon/Geet sunoge huzoor ya main ghazal gaaoon. Rocky was released a week after the tragic death of Nargis and her absence at the premier where a seat was kept vacant for her is an unforgettable image.

In Sai Paranjpe’s Chashme Buddoor, three students share a terrace flat. Rakesh Bedi and Ravi Vaswani chase girls, but in vain. A pretty young girl Deepti Naval walks into their lives. They go out of their way to woo her, but their shy, reserved flatmate Faroque Shaikh wins her love. Rakesh and Ravi poison Shaikh’s mind and create a wedge between the lovers. The disruptive duo have a quick change of heart and reunite the lovers with the help of Saeed Jaffery, a loquacious paanwala and Deepti’s granny Leela Mishra.

K. Balachander’s Ek Duuje Ke Liye is the story of a Tamil boy, Kamal Hassan, and a Punjabi girl Rati Agnihotri, who overcome barriers — class, caste and communal — in their love. Kamal Hassan entertains as the prankish Tamilian and dances his way into the heart of the audience. A scene in which Rati burns Kamal’s photographs and defiantly drinks the ashes with her coffee before her hysterical mother, indicates passion and love never seen in Hindi films before.

In Manoj Kumar’s Kranti, his patriotism moves the audience because he deals with it at a human rather than a political level. The film is about sacrifices made by three generations of a patriotic family. In one scene Dilip Kumar, a revolutionary berates people like Shashi Kapoor who helped the British saying "Agar kulhadi mein lakdi na hoti to lakdi kaise katti?" The flag waving jingoism of Kranti infuses patriotism into the national consciousness.

Shashi Kapoor’s 36 Chowringhee Lane is a thought-provoking film about loneliness and old age — topic no filmmaker dares to touch. Jennifer Kendal Kapoor plays a school teacher — Violet Stoneham — who leads a lonely life, teaching literature to schoolgirls. She invites Samaresh (Dhirtiman Chatterjee) to write his novel in her house, but he uses the flat to make love to his girlfriend — Debshree Roy. The lovers get married and do not need her flat. They go, leaving Stoneham in a cauldron of loneliness. Jennifer Kapoor plays her role to perfection.

In Yarana, a village bumpkin Kishan (Amitabh Bachchan) regales his childhood friend Bishan (Amjad Khan) with his melodious and sonorous voice. Bishan takes Kishan to a city and makes him a famous singer. Now it is the turn of Kishan to pay the debt of friendship. He bails out his Yaar who is mired in a conspiracy not of his making, proving thereby that a friend in need is a friend in deed. Undoubtedly, the love of friends has the strength and power of an army.

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